Senators reconfigure redistricting proposal
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County’s senatorial district is likely to shed Brandon and gain the Chittenden County communities of Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
That was the word from key lawmakers on Monday as the state’s highest chamber was preparing this week to consider House and Senate district boundary changes as part of reapportionment — an exercise through which legislative district lines are affirmed or redrawn to reflect the new decennial census numbers in a manner that is consistent with the constitutional standard of “one person, one vote.” Based on the new census numbers each Senate district should have around 21,000 citizens per senator.
A seven-member Vermont Apportionment Board (VAB) last year crunched the 2010 decennial number and recommended a plan that called for, among other things, Brandon moving into the Rutland County senatorial district and the Chittenden County community of Charlotte moving into the Addison County district.
But Chittenden County’s powerful legislative delegation has blasted the plan, arguing that Charlotte should stay put. That sentiment also came out loud and clear in the form of a petition signed by more than 200 Charlotters, who argued their town is more oriented toward the north (Chittenden County) for schooling, shopping and entertainment.
“I think Charlotte is off the table,” acknowledged Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison. “(The Chittenden County delegation) didn’t want to give up Charlotte.”
And the delegation has a lot of clout. As the state’s most populous county, it holds numerous House seats and six of the Senate’s 30 seats.
So with Charlotte (population 3,600) now apparently out of the mix, lawmakers have recently looked at new changes to make the redistricting math work for Rutland, Addison and Chittenden counties. The Senate Redistricting Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham County, voted 4-3 last week to send on a map that would add the Chittenden County towns of Huntington and Buel’s Gore to the Addison County senatorial district.
Huntington has a population of around 1,940 residents, according to the latest census numbers. Buel’s Gore, located off Route 17 past South Starksboro, has around a dozen residents.
White said the proposed move has drawn little reaction thus far from Huntington residents.
“We have heard from some people in Huntington that they don’t want to go to Addison (County), but not a huge outcry,” White said.
“The numbers work.”
The Huntington Board of Civil Authority met on Monday and drafted a letter in opposition to the Senate reapportionment plan. The board sent the letter, signed by Huntington Town Clerk Heidi Racht, to Montpelier.
“Since our town is in Chittenden County, we believe that we should have representation in this county,” reads the letter.
Huntington officials argue their community’s interests are already under-represented at the Vermont Statehouse.
Huntington is currently in the Washington-Chittenden-1 House district, which it shares with the Washington County towns of Duxbury and Waterbury, along with Buel’s Gore. The district is represented by Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury and Rep. Rebecca Ellis, D-Waterbury Center.
While Racht and Huntington selectboard Chairman Jim Christiansen believe that Stevens and Ellis have been attentive to their town’s needs, they note Huntington has not seen one of its own elected to the House in around a half-century. And with the majority of House district laying in Washington County, Huntington officials believe the drought is likely to continue.
Local officials were candid about their displeasure with how the town has been represented in the state Senate.
“We believe that we haven’t seen a Chittenden County senator in our town at a selectboard meeting since Oct. 20, 2003,” reads the Huntington BCA letter. “It is an understatement to say that our residents have been ignored and our voters taken for granted. One example is that we had a lot of damage in our town in May 2011 and other damage in late August and received no phone call of interest from any of our senators.”
If Huntington were to be added to the Addison County senatorial district, Racht noted, the town — though based in Chittenden County — would have Washington County representation in the House and Addison County representation in the Senate.
“We will have no direct representation,” Racht said.
“We often feel like an orphan in this corner of Chittenden County,” Christiansen added. “We are completely disenfranchised in the county in which we live.”
Christianson believes the Huntington/Buel’s Gore move is being driven by the state Senate’s refusal to break down the massive, six-seat Chittenden County senatorial district. The Huntington BCA is urging the Senate to consider a previous incarnation of the reapportionment map that showed Chittenden County divided into three two-seat districts.
“(The Senate) is still avoiding the elephant in the room — Chittenden County,” Christianson said.
Meanwhile, the approximately 12 residents of Buel’s Gore haven’t organized any opposition to the proposed move.
Robert Hall is a South Starksboro resident who owns land in Buel’s Gore.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” he said of the inclusion of the gore — an unincorporated portion of Chittenden County — in the Addison County senatorial district.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.